RTÉ One, Tuesday, 8.30pm
The Consumer Show

The Consumer Show

New House

If you ever bought a faulty toaster or a silk shirt that turned out to be polyester then you were thankfully protected by consumer law and were entitled to one of the 3 Rs - repair, replacement or refund. But when it comes to the biggest purchase of most people's lives - their home - consumer legislation doesn't apply and it's a case of buyer beware.

High profile housing cases such as the evacuated residents at Priory Hall, pyrite affected homeowners, as well as the myriad of other owners experiencing problems with new-build houses, illustrate the lack of comeback buyers have when they find problems with their new houses.

This week The Consumer Show's Kathriona Devereux is looking at what happens when something goes wrong with your house and what's being done to help protect housing consumers in the future.

Liam and Sue Byrne are one of the 10,000 homeowners affected by pyrite who are still waiting for their home to be fixed.

Lynne and Derrick Dolan-Byrne haven't lived in their apartment for 4.5 years because they maintain that it is uninhabitable due to damp and mould problems. They are currently renting and trying to get the issue resolved.

The problem for lots of these people is that house purchases are based on contract law and there is no consumer legislation in place and insufficient regulation to protect them so they are forced down a lengthy, expensive and often confusing legal and insurance path.

New legislation introduced by the Dept of the Environment, which is due to come into effect next year, will see a requirement for certified assessors, employed by the developer or owner, to sign off on stages of the build and to submit statutory certificates of compliance to the local authority. It means if something goes wrong with the house in the future there is a paper trail and it will be easier for homeowners to sue and seek redress.

Minister Phil Hogan has said that this new legislation will lead to a better culture of compliance and will mean better houses will be built in the future. Minister Hogan joined Keelin Shanley to discuss better protection for consumers purchasing houses. Local authorities will be more involved in the process of house-building, as plans will have to be submitted in advance, inspections will be carried out throughout the process and they will liaise with the professionals to ensure that the drawings approved at the planning stages are complied with. This, according to Minister Hogan, will allow for a clear chain of responsibility.

With regard to those homeowners who are currently experiencing difficulties with their houses, local authorities are carrying out inspections and where there are clearly responsibilities that can be assigned to an individual, they will do so.

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